Museums and gallery collections that educate and inspire

Cambridge is home to the largest and most significant University-owned collections in the world.

Museums and gallery collections that educate and inspire

The Fitzwilliam Museum is one of a group of eight museums at Cambridge, whose extensive and exceptional collections embrace the full breadth of the sciences and the humanities - from world-class works of art, to uniquely significant historical artefacts and scientific specimens which were vital to the formation of modern understanding of nature. At the Fitzwilliam, the broad sweep of civilisation may be surveyed - from a 14,000 year-old fragment of flint engraved with a stylised reindeer, to contemporary prints by Damian Hirst and the Chapman Brothers.

  • Inside the Fitzwilliam Museum
    Inside the Fitzwilliam Museum

The broad value of art and artefacts

"Their aesthetic and value alone is not the reason that Cambridge has, over hundreds of years, accumulated these collections and preserved them in museums", says Tim Knox, Fitzwilliam Museum Director and Marlay Curator. "It is their value to scholarship which is of the highest importance."

"Cambridge’s impact in teaching and research would undoubtedly be diminished were it not for its museums and collections. By examining and analysing first-hand these physical artefacts, our students and researchers are able to better understand their stories – the context and circumstance of their production, the motivation of the producer, and their journeys through history", he adds.

Museums are energetic convening spaces. They play host to families, tourists and students alike – the collections have a relevance to all of humanity. Cambridge’s Museums also engage the public - whatever their level of interest of knowledge - in the work of the University. They act as a portal for the outside world, ensuring that visitors can be in contact with the knowledge and research flowing out of the University.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor

Extending and opening up our collections

The Fitzwilliam Museum is a living, breathing, example of what philanthropy can enable. It was the 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam’s bequest of his library, art collection and £100,000 which enabled the foundation of this remarkable museum 200 years ago. Subsequent gifts enabled us to build it up into what it is today and we are seeking investment to ensure it continues to inspire and educate far into the future.

We will invest in making our collections more accessible through teaching and research, improving our displays and conserving our collections. We will continue to enrich our collections with new acquisitions, and will sustain the tradition of spectacular and thought-provoking exhibitions, such as Vermeer’s Women, Tomb Treasures of Han China and Silent Partners.

We want to open-up and disseminate our collections in innovative ways, in order to engage and inspire the public, so that audiences both in Cambridge and beyond will be able to use the collections for both enjoyment and research.

We also hope to endow the Keepers of the Fitzwilliam, who form an integral part of our ability to extend the riches of the collections in this way. They also contribute towards the Fitzwilliam Museum’s renowned education and outreach schemes. Funding these posts long-term will ensure that the Fitzwilliam’s expertise and collections continue to inspire many generations of visitors, schoolchildren, and scholars.

Next steps

Lois Hargrave

Director of Development - Fitzwilliam Museum

+44 (0)1223 332939

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Related stories

Philanthropic giving is at the heart of the success of the Collegiate University, enabling us to make discoveries that change the world and to ensure that our students receive an unrivalled education. Cambridge owes its world-leading excellence in research and teaching to the generosity of its supporters. Our history is synonymous with a history of far-sighted benefaction, and the same is as true today as it has ever been.

Gift announcement
A new two-year project supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund will uncover the hidden voices and untold stories of individual items and collections across the University.
Philanthropic impact story
The Fitzwilliam’s grandest gallery, at the centre of the historic Founder’s Building, has undergone extensive refurbishment, lasting two years.